2014 Set Pieces for Areas

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by The Scottish Critic, Nov 21, 2013.

  1. Good Morning All

    At the weekend I was talking to some friends who play in lower section bands and they are off the opinion that the set pieces for the regionals have been mixed up as the second section "Chausers Tunes" won't test the majority of the UK second section bands and that "Partita for band" most third section bands will really struggle to play.

    I have no opinion either way as I only know one of the pieces (Partita which I do think is a stiff challenge) but what do others think.

    Let me state as well I am not here to bash the panel which picked the pieces merely wanting to gauge how bands think they will fair in these two sections and is the original comment about the music being the wrong way around a fair comment.

    The Scottish Critic
  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Every year recently there seem to have been a pair of area pieces set for adjacent sections that spark this opinion. The last two years it's been 1st vs 2nd section, with Mountain Views and Cross Patonce in 2012 looking particularly plausible candidates for reversing - but Brass Triumphant vs The Plantagenets in 2013 was far from clear cut either, and in almost every year, one can find such a pair. I've already heard 1st section surprise voiced at the apparent lack of difficulty in Cry of the Mountain, and I am tempted to conclude that the 1st section must be a particularly difficult section to set pieces for at an appropriate level, given the regular lack of success of various wise panels in selecting well aimed tests.

    I suspect that what happens is that the selection panel aim to make each section see a blend of harder and simpler pieces over the years. In the last three years, the 2nd section has seen Resurgam, followed by the aforementioned Cross Patonce and The Plantagenets, all three of which tested many bands in the section to the limit. It is definitely time for a piece of lesser challenge, lest 2nd section bands forget how to learn how to play a set piece to perfection... So if Chaucer's Tunes is on the easy side (I don't know it myself), then that makes sense to me.
    The 3rd section case for setting a difficult piece is less obvious. Hollywood! last year wasn't easy for the section, and the percussion writing in particular was beyond many bands. Olympus in 2012 was if anything on the easier side, but A Little Light Music in 2011 was a big ask. But actually I don't think that Postcards from Home is particularly hard for the 3rd. Its setting certainly seems consistent with other settings of the same piece, and I don't recall it as a particularly tricky piece from when the University of Warwick band pulled it out in rehearsal some 15 years ago.

    I do think quirks like this are the result of selections that think more about providing a sensible succession of pieces for each section rather than about the contrast between sections in an individual year. I don't think that pieces can get muddled between sections anywhere near as often as people suggest, or indeed that this is likely to happen at all. I mean... If it happened once, and you were on the panel, you'd take every precaution several times over to avoid that ever happening again... It would be embarrassing, people would talk scornfully (more than they do anyway), and your reputation would suffer.

    Having a moment's mild sport trying to think which band your second section friends play for... Is it a Fife band that is in the habit of pulling out good results elsewhere, but has had a bit of an unfortunate time at the area recently? If so, other second section bands may not consider the piece as straightforward.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
  3. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    who is on the selection panel?

    how many of them are involved on a dayt to day, week to week, basis with ' lower' section bands?
  4. Gorgie boy

    Gorgie boy Member

    That'll be my band then!!
  5. Dave

    I was south of the Border at the weekend and I don't think my friends would want their band quoted as finding their piece too difficult !!!!

    But very valid points you make, as does SteveTrom I would imagine its easier to pick music for the top sections as we tend to hear more of them Albert Hall, Open Birmingham, Spring festival Blackpool etc but keeping pace with whats actually happening in the lower sections is possibily a bit more difficult for the panel, and not a job I woul want as they are never going to please everyone.
  6. mjwarman

    mjwarman Member

    I know Richard Evans is on the panel and he is very active with taking rehearsals for the lower section bands across all areas.

    At my old band we had him down for 2 or 3 years when in the 3rd and 2nd Section and he helped us to get to grip with the pieces. He was also helping out at least one other band in the area in the lower sections too. Paul Holland is also on the panel and he also does rehearsal weekends with lower section bands, so I suspect they do have some idea of what they are doing.

    I think they are aware of the pitfalls of the pieces and want them to challenge the best bands in the section, which the last few years of second section pieces have done well. I can't however explain what has happened in the 1st section for the past few years, maybe they wanted the bands to bring out some musicality as they could play all the notes? From some of the performances I heard in a few of the areas, maybe some conductors/bands/people got a bit complacent?

    Partita in the 3rd section this year isn't really intrinsically hard, it does however have some nice music within it. It's been used in the 3rd Section before at Pontins in recent memory, (2010?) so again it's not been pitched too high, just trying to challenge the bands at what they should be good at; making music.

    Please feel free to pick holes in this, whether grammatically, or factually!!!
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  7. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Keep the faith - remember 1952!

    But it seems I was barking up the wrong tree entirely here... No shame in admitting that a set piece is a challenge to your band though - St. Magnus will certainly take a lot of work for us to get up to scratch.

    Paul was also the chap who piloted Newbridge up through the sections in recentish memory.
  8. Neillyboy

    Neillyboy Member

    Having had a good look at partita for band with the band I conduct, it's certainly no easy task, plenty to think about and the demand for good clear basics is evident. I think this is a fantastic choice for third section and the band that wins it will be the band that has grasped the basics and has made something of it. It is a challenge but how can bands get better without a challenge.
  9. davidsait

    davidsait Member

    I played Partita for Band with University of Warwick (was it really 15 years ago Dave?). My impression is that it's a great piece for a third section band - you could even include some of it in a bandstand concert!
  10. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Leamington 2003 is when UoW performed it out, with notable lack of success, I see! But I'd been gone for years by then - I graduated in 2000 - so the rehearsals I remember must have been prior to that. Think we played it through a few times, then decided to play something else. But I might be confused - it's also in my mind that Wantage had it out at a similar time, and I was turning out for them regularly when I was at home...
  11. cockaigne

    cockaigne Member

    The three most recent Second Section pieces for the Areas have been The Plantagenets (2013), Cross Patonce (2012) and Resurgam (2011). Each of these was either criticised for being 'too difficult' a test, or (in the case of Resurgam), too special (musically, as opposed to too technical a challenge) - from various quarters including posts on these forums, bands I've worked with, and the "pundits" at 4barsrest, all4brass, British Bandsman inter alia.

    "Chaucer's Tunes" is by no means an easy piece - the writing is not overly virtuosic, but does make technical demands on the tutti/lower chairs in each section. There may not be many stand-out solo moments, but most players will feel a bit of the spotlight shone on them at various moments. This sort of writing makes sense, given the piece's origins (in brass band form) as a test piece for the national youth championships - I'm not sure for which section it was set, but I would imagine at the higher end, where confident young players would be glad of the opportunity to shine from whatever seat they were playing.

    Strong Section 2 bands will not struggle, but the score is intricate enough to demand much hard work on the way to a perfect performance - something which should be far more achievable in recent years. Music Panellist Paul Holland, adjudicator for the 2nd and 3rd sections at Stevenage in March 2013, remarked (in his summing-up before the results) that he didn't feel any band in either section had "really nailed the piece". This piece surely presents a chance to really nail it - and also a fairer challenge for the weaker bands in this section, rather than a demoralisingly unachievable target.

    In my experience (though I wouldn't wish to pre-suppose anything), people who grumble that a test piece is "too easy" very often haven't got down to the nitty-gritty of it as yet. It's a good, fun piece, and I'm greatly looking forward to working on it.
  12. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    I played Chaucer's tunes in 2004 at the finals, and the main thing to be eked out of this piece is the musical style of each movement. The saucy Wife of Bath for instance.
  13. Red Elvis

    Red Elvis Active Member

    The middle movement - Es ist ein Ros enstprungen - contains some lovely music . This piece was the first test piece I played when I started playing with contest bands. At the time I was playing 1st Baritone and in that particular movement I had to hit a top A entry after 4 bars rest , at mp if memory serves.

    Lasebeam bass will remember it well - he had an instrumental malfunction but pulled it off and we ended up coming 5th at the finals that year with Becontree.
  14. Laserbeam bass

    Laserbeam bass Active Member

    Credit cards, coins and all manner of physical exertions, but the blasted 4th valve was stuck solid after bar 3 of the piece. At least it proved my transposing at sight was still active then ;-)
  15. Bass Bone

    Bass Bone New Member

    Selection of test pieces has always been a controversial subject, as has just about every other aspect of contesting, however if everyone is playing the same piece then, to an extent, it's a level playing field irrespective of whether the piece is considered too easy, too difficult etc. Over the years most of us has had an issue with this but I don't envy the task of anyone on the selection committee. Dave's post sums it up pretty well.

    Personally I'm more concerned about the adjudication / feedback to the bands and would like to see a relative grading or appraisal of a bands overall performance as this is not always apparant from the crit or the markings.

    I accept this is slightly off topic but surely if the overall performance was graded into say 190 - 200 = Outstanding Performance, 180 - 189 = Very Good, 170 - 179 = Good or say Gold, Silver, Bronze this would be more meaningful to all the bands and would take away the sometimes undue exuberance of being first in a mediocre field or undue disappointment of being also rans in a strong field.
  16. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    Which sounds remarkably like bits of the Vaughan Williams London Symphony complete with Chinatown references.

    Chaucers Tunes has separate parts for the lower two solo cornets and they are a bit separate from the other two. There are some technically difficult bits later on in it. It is also very orchestral, which will affect some bands ability to pull it off convincingly. There are also a number of abrupt style changes which require careful management.
  17. ISBBBb2

    ISBBBb2 Member

    It’s the same debate every year (and yes I appreciate this is a forum to debate such things ;-)

    However there is no such thing as an easy test piece. I feel that there is a misconception that unless a test piece ticks certain boxes (hemi-demi-semi quavers all over the shop, Solo lines going up to super Z's etc) then it is deemed an "easy piece". How about bands (my own included) look at the basics of banding for a change. Tuning, playing together, band sound, the basic concept of phrasing and musical shapes...)

    Cry of the Mountain for 1st section is not the technical workout that St Magnus is and for bands looking to qualify to Championship status, the step up in "difficulty" will be monstrous. However, each band in each section has to play the same piece of music AND be better than them. Does anyone know how to do that?

    Contest, like exams, are only easy if you know the answers!
  18. Ianroberts

    Ianroberts Well-Known Member

    As a (reasonably) experienced ex baritone player ive heard of those semi quavers, but what are your "hemi demi" thingybobs you reffer to? Im assuming they dont make them for Baritone
  19. ISBBBb2

    ISBBBb2 Member

    The 64th note!
    (And if you ever get any, do as I and the rest of the tuba playing fraternity does and make sure they haven’t given you the Euphonium part by mistake!) ;-)
  20. Parp

    Parp Member

    The approved technique for playing hemi-demis is: "Wiggle your fingers as quick as you can and don't look at the MD"

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